Yes, it’s true that 2018 will see plenty of fed cattle in the market pipeline. Cow-calf producers, although slowly, have been rebuilding numbers and the Cattle on Feed reports for 2017 showed the net effect—more cattle on feed.

The flip side of the 2017 market, however, was more cattle being pulled through the marketing process, which kept feedyards current. As we work our way through the first quarter of 2018, we’re reaping those benefits. And the market is responding.

The Five Area formula sales volume totaled 193,148 head for the week ending Jan. 27, compared with about 201,126 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 118,367 head, compared with about 85,151 head the previous week, a significant jump.   

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 588,000 head, compared with 581,000 head the same week last year. Continuing a trend we saw throughout 2017, the current year-to-date total harvest is 56,000 head higher than last year.

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 49,000 head, compared with about 46,000 head the previous week. The packers had about 230,000 head of forward contracts available for January and 194,000 head in February.

Now looking at the prices, the weekly weighted average cash steer price for the Five Area region was $126.46 per cwt, compared with $122.89 the previous week, for a jump of $3.57. This follows last week, which saw the market gain $3. The Five Area weighted average cash dressed steer price was $199.74, compared with $194.89 the previous week, $4.85 higher.

The Five Area average formula price was $193.25, compared $193.59 the previous week, making it 0.34 lower. That’s not unusual, however, as the formula prices lag the cash trade by a week.

The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending Jan. 13 was 896 pounds, which was 4 pounds lower than the week before, but fairly steady compared with 898 pounds the same week last year.

The Choice-Select spread was $5.00 on Friday, compared with $4.70 the previous week and a $3.76 spread last year.